Colorado eviction laws vary from county to county in terms of court proceedings and fees. Despite that, they all follow the same general eviction process:
Every eviction process is different and dependent on the lease/rental agreement signed by the tenant and the landlord. It is always best to exercise meticulous file-keeping to avoid errors that the tenant could exploit.
This article details a summary for landlords to refer to when evicting a tenant. Confirm procedures with your county to avoid mistakes and confusion.
1. Failure to pay rent on time
Rent is usually considered late a day past its due date. A grace period may be available if stated in the lease/rental agreement.
Before a landlord can start the eviction process, they must give the tenant an official written Notice to Pay. This is also known as a Demand for Compliance.
The amount of time landlords give their tenants to pay depends on their tenancy:
If the tenant pays the rent within the notice period, then the eviction process does not continue. If the tenant is unable to pay, the landlord may proceed with the eviction process.
2. Violation of the lease/rental agreement
The rental lease agreement has to be upheld by both tenant and landlord for the entire duration of the tenant’s stay. Agreements may vary from tenant to tenant and must be clearly stated in the lease.
If a tenant violates any terms from the lease agreement, the landlord must issue a written Notice to Comply informing the tenant of their violation and specifies how long they have to comply.
The length of time a tenant has to resolve the issue or leave the premises depends on their type of tenancy:
If the tenant resolves the issues on time, the eviction process does not continue.
Lease violations may include:
- Damaging rental property
- Keeping pets in pet-free properties, etc.
- Staying longer than indicated on the lease
- Surpassing the maximum number of allowed residents living in the rental property
If the tenant fails to resolve the violations on time, then the landlord may continue with the eviction.
3. Conducting illegal activity
If a tenant has engaged in illegal behavior within the property, the landlord must issue a 3-Day Notice to Vacate.
Examples of illegal activities are:
- Involvement in the creation, distribution, or consumption of illegal drugs
- Assaulting anyone on or near the rental property
- Conviction of any criminal act that carries at least a 180-day penalty
- Theft, violence, assault
Clients charged with this type of violation do not have the option to “correct” it. They have to move out before the notice period ends. If they continue to stay on the premises, the landlord may continue with the eviction process.
4. Non-renewal of the lease after the rental period ends
In Colorado, landlords cannot evict tenants or force them to vacate the property without probable cause. As long as the tenant does not violate any rules, they can stay until their rental period ends.
But if the tenant stays in the property even a day after their lease/rental agreement ends and has not arranged for renewal, landlords can issue a Notice to Quit. Landlords are not obliged to remind their tenants to renew unless stated in the lease/rental agreement.
The length of time a tenant receives before vacating the property depends on the duration of their lease/rental agreement.
Filing a Complaint
1. How to File a Complaint
The eviction process can only begin after the issuance of the Notice to Vacate. The landlord must have allowed enough time to pass before filing for eviction.
The eviction process is as follows:
- Proceed to the county court the rental property belongs to
- File the necessary documents
- Pay the fees. In Colorado, filing fees start at $85-$135, depending on the type of eviction
It takes about 1 to 91 days from the Notice to Pay or Quit issuance, depending on the reason for eviction and the lease agreement before a legal complaint may be filed.
Serving the Tenant
1. How to Serve a Tenant
A copy of the summons and complaint is served to the tenant. It must be served at least 7 days before the hearing.
There are several methods to accomplish this:
- Personal Service - A copy of the summons and complaint is delivered to the tenant in person
- Substituted Service - If the tenant is unavailable, a family member of theirs who is over the age of 18 may receive the documents. If neither of the options above are available, a copy may be left at the tenant’s workplace.
- Posting - The server leaves a copy of the documents in a secure and visible place by the entrance of the property.
When using the Posting method, the server has the additional responsibility of mailing the documents via first-class mail.
Landlords are not allowed to serve the documents to the tenant themselves. They have to ask someone uninvolved in the case to do it for them.
The person tasked with serving the documents may be someone from the sheriff’s office or a professional process server (additional service charges may be charged for either option).
If the landlord decides to choose someone else, they must be uninvolved with the case, know the service rules, and be at least 18 years old.
2. After Serving the Summons and Complaint
The tenant has at least 7 days to prepare for the hearing.
A written answer is not required from the tenant, but they must present one on the day of the hearing. Failure to do so may result in the judge ruling in favor of the landlord regardless of the tenant’s attendance at the hearing.
The eviction hearing is scheduled 7-14 days after the complaint is filed.
The documents should be served to the tenant at least 7 days before the hearing is scheduled.
Asking for Possession
1. Filing a Motion to Obtain Judgement and get a Judgement for Possession
The landlord has to provide a strong argument backed up by solid evidence against the tenant. If the tenant does not show up to the hearing, the landlord wins by default, and the eviction process continues.
2. Next procedure if the tenant disagreed and replied
In the state of Colorado, a reply from the tenant is not necessary for a court date to be scheduled. They only need to provide a written answer or counterclaim on or before the eviction hearing.
The judge could also require the tenant and landlord to attend a mediation session with a trained mediator before either hearing.
If an agreement is not reached, then the responsibility of providing evidence falls on the landlord. The landlord needs to support the claim and show it during the hearing.
This could include, but is not limited to the following:
- Copy of the deed and lease
- Rent receipts and ledgers
- Bank statements
- Photo and video documentation of the violations, correspondence, etc.
However, a follow-up hearing will be scheduled to continue discussing the case if the tenant files a written answer.
A hearing is scheduled 7-14 days from the filing of the complaint. If the landlord filed all the proper documents and provided a legal reason for the eviction, a Summary Judgment can be given in the landlord’s favor.
1. After the landlord wins the case
Provided that the tenant does not appeal for reconsideration, a Writ of Restitution is issued at least 48 hours after the landlord wins the case.
The tenant has a maximum of 48 hours to vacate the property. If they are still on the property after 48 hours, they may be forcibly removed.
2. Move out process
The tenant receives 48 hours to leave the premises with all their belongings. If they remain on the property, the landlord can schedule a time for eviction with the county’s sheriff.
The landlord is not allowed to force the tenant to move out. Only an authority from the sheriff’s department is permitted to do so.
If the tenant leaves behind any belongings due to forcible eviction, the landlord must contact the tenant and give them 15 days to retrieve their belongings.
However, if the tenant left the belongings voluntarily, the landlord must wait 30 days before disposing of the items or placing them in storage.
The tenant has 48 hours from when the landlord wins the case to move out of the property.
If the tenant is still on the property by the end of the 48 hours, they have until the landlord schedules a time for eviction to move out. This could take a few hours to a few days depending on the availability of the landlord.
Colorado Eviction Timeline
Below is the average timeline for a complete eviction process. This timeline may change depending on the complexities of the case, such as a second hearing.
On average, it would take anywhere between 10-107 days for a complete eviction process.
1. How to keep good records
If the tenant disagrees with the eviction request and they reply to the court, it’s crucial that you keep extremely good records of everything so you can provide proof to the judge and win your case. This part can make or break your entire eviction request in the event of a dispute.
You can stay organized by:
- Keeping a physical paper trail - This gets very hard to search through, takes up a lot of storage space, and could get lost, damaged, stolen, or burnt in a fire.
- Scanning documents - Scan every document into your computer. A great scanner is the Brother ADS-1700W for under $200 or the Fujitsu ScanSnap iX1500 for $400.
- Backups - Store and backup every file using Dropbox, Google Drive, OneDrive, or any other easily searchable option.
- PMS - Use a property management software to save everything from lease agreements, signed documents, violations, emails, notes, invoices, payments, reminders, maintenance requests, pictures, videos, and anything you can imagine. This is used best when you also scan every document into your software.
2. Evidence to show for not paying rent
If the tenant doesn’t pay rent, and they dispute that claim, it’s important that you show the judge the following:
- Your lease agreement - Showing the terms of the agreement, when rent is due, and any penalties for late payment.
- All payments - Showing all previous payments, how they were typically made (check, credit card, ACH, etc.…), and what date they were normally paid on.
- Any payment returns - If their check bounced, their bank account had insufficient funds, or they did a chargeback dispute on their credit card, show this to the Judge. Also, show any fees your bank may have charged you and any penalties you are owed according to your lease agreement.
- All messages - If you sent your tenant automated or manual payment reminders by text, email, letter, or mail, it’s essential to show this. While it’s usually not needed, it’s still good to show that they were aware of the situation and were given time to cure and make payment. This is why it’s always best to have everything in writing instead of any phone calls or face-to-face meetings.
3. Evidence to show for lease violations
If you are evicting the tenant for lease violations, for example, noise complaints, unauthorized pets, or property damages, it’s important to show proof from any of the following methods:
- Security Cameras - If you have a surveillance system that can show them committing the crime or lease violation, it’s safe to say you will normally win this dispute.
- Video - If you missed them in the act, the next best thing is to record a video with your phone of any damages or the lease violation.
- Pictures - They say a picture is worth a thousand words. In this case, an image could be worth thousands of dollars! Even if you take a video, it’s important to show the Judge any pictures too, as it’s usually easier to see by email or printed.
- Lease Terms - Once again, show the court which term they violated in their lease agreement. Don’t worry if you don’t have every single term spelled out in your rental agreement. If the violation is bad enough, it might not be needed to have it written. As a good practice, though, start adding all of the potential reasons to evict a tenant into your agreement.
Can I force a tenant to move out in Colorado?
No. A landlord could be sued for forceful eviction of a tenant if they skip the proper eviction processes.
In the state of Colorado, tenants can sue their landlord for damages.
Which eviction methods are illegal in Colorado?
Self-help eviction is illegal. Examples of such acts include (but are not limited to):
- Cutting off the tenant’s electric, water, and/or heat supply
- Changing the locks to prevent the tenant from entering the property
- Vandalizing or destroying the tenant’s property
What are the penalties for a self-help eviction in Colorado?
According to Colorado Civil Code, you may be liable for Tenant’s Court Costs & Attorneys’ Fees. The statute also gives the tenant the right to stay on the property. A tenant can sue you for actual damages plus violations. Tenants may ask for an injunction prohibiting any further violation during the court action.
What other Colorado laws should I be aware of?
Landlords should be aware of the changes made to the Eviction Policies in the state of Colorado. Especially in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is also wise for landlords to check out laws on Security Deposits. These deposits protect the landlord in case the tenants violate any terms in the lease/rental agreement or fail to pay their rent.